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Advice on Fireworks Phobias

Firework phobias are very common in pets. They can become very distressed by the noise and flashing lights caused by fireworks.

Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Signs of distress in your pets are:

  • Pacing and panting
  • Trembling
  • Hiding
  • Seeking you out and remaining close to you
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Destructive Behaviour
  • Barking
  • Self-inflicted trauma
  • Panicking and running away
  • Soiling in the house

Here is some advice to help you try to manage your pet's firework phobias in the few weeks surrounding Bonfire Night:

When the firework season begins try to ensure that your pets are kept safely indoors. Make sure they have had their walk and have been toileted and well fed.  Give a good meal mid- afternoon before the pending fireworks. Allow them access to a safe, quiet area. This can be as simple as a blanket over a table or chair, the cupboard under the stairs, or a well curtained, blacked out room. Make sure all windows and doors are secured to prevent your pet from escaping into the night.

Cats in particular will choose to hide away, so do let them find a place that they feel safe. Have activities, provide plenty of familiar toys, changing these regularly to provide some stimulation and also look into providing puzzle feeders.

Protect them from fireworks noise. Provide background sounds from the radio or television or use music. Start this well ahead of the fireworks season. Also try to arrange that you are there with your pet. Be around them but do try not to reinforce their fears, resist the temptation to constantly reassure and cuddle your pet. Try to ignore the fireworks noises yourself , remain calm and relaxed and try to involve your pet in some form of activity.  If you know of a non-fearful, friendly dog that you’re pet knows, this may help to reduce your own dog’s fear. Never punish fearful behaviour as this will only intensify the behaviour and confirm to your pet that there is something to be afraid of! Take care only to reward the non -fearful relaxed behaviour that you want.

There are also some treatments to help reduce your pet's anxiety:

There are plug in devices which release natural pheromones that help to calm and reassure. You can plug these devices in your pet's favourite resting place and leave this on for the whole fireworks season. There are also pheromone sprays available, and also pheromone collars for dogs. Start using these at least 1-2 weeks prior to the fireworks season. There are over-the-counter non-prescription natural remedies, these can be added to their food and again these should be started 1-2 weeks before the fireworks season.

Sometimes prescription medication may be required for certain severely distressed cases. This medication is generally given one hour prior to expected firework noise etc.; Your Vet will need to see your pet to prescribe such medication.  

Desensitisation techniques are used to teach your dog to be less afraid of loud noises. There are excellent CD's available which simulate the random and unpredictable noises of fireworks. These noises are started very softy and then built up slowly, starting several weeks before fireworks season.

Do contact us for good professional advice on advised products and management well in advance of the pending fireworks season.

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